Safety as a Mysoginist Activity

Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne argues that misogyny is not about male hostility or hatred toward women — instead, it’s about controlling and punishing women who challenge male ideology. Misogyny rewards women who reinforce the status quo and punishes those who don’t. Misogyny can be exercised by men or women. I will return to misogyny later.

The evolution of Social Psychology has much in common with Feminism and: Sociology, Psychology, Politics, Annales History, Anthropology, Philosophy, Semiotics, Cultural Theory, Discourse Analysis, Post Structuralism and Linguistics. These transdisciplines remain absent from any conversation about risk and safety. You can see the evolution of Social Psychology at Figure 1. Mapping the Evolution of a Social Psychology of Risk.

Figure 1. Mapping the Evolution of a Social Psychology of Risk.

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It is from this intersection of Feminism, Post-structuralism and Social Psychology that the following blog/critique is offered. I have written before about what a Feminist critique could offer safety (https://safetyrisk.net/can-there-be-a-feminist-safety/). There is also a video from a feminist perspective on safety here: https://vimeo.com/237511120

It was 1975 when I first read Anne Summer’s excellent history Damned Whores and God’s Police, The Colonization of Women in Australia. The title is a quote from Caroline Chisholm and denotes the way women are either objectified sexually or attributed to a policing identity. Summer’s Annales History and subsequent books (https://www.annesummers.com.au/) do a great job of rewriting a History that is profoundly white masculinist, power-centric and fixated on the oppression of minorities.

Safety was set up as a patriarchy and remains so. If it weren’t there would not be so many splinter groups set up against this patriarchy, including SPoR.

What a surprise when I first entered the safety industry to find there was no Feminist voice in or to this industry and continues to be so. A woman’s voice does not necessarily mean it is a Feminist voice (https://issimo.s3.amazonaws.com/static/thirdpartyassets/annesummers/TheWomensManifesto_pdffinal.pdf). In safety, one either complies with the masculinst models of safety or one is marginalized. For Safety it seems that women continue to be Damned Whores and God’s Police. So let’s look at a few examples that demonstrate this to be so.

Example One – Hazardman.

I was astounded when the ACT Regulator came out with the safety campaign Hazardman (https://safetyrisk.net/hazardman-wont-save-you/ ). I wrote letters to Ministers, Opposition, Media and Feminist groups asking how this could be a helpful approach to safety. The campaign remained in the airwaves for 5 years and was not removed because of its sexist complaints but because of budget concerns.

Hazardman is the quintessential hero who saves women from petty hazards. The images of women are as objects complete with tight fitting uniforms exhibiting their bodily features. The campaign was viewed as progressive and included an indoctrination campaign in schools to help inculcate the misogyny into the minds of young girls (https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6150157/holy-safety-hazardman-is-on-the-case/)

You can see the winner of the school competition at Figure 3. Hazardman Winner.

Figure 3. Hazardman Winner.

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What was staggering about this campaign was that no-one except myself understood this as a misogynist exercise. The campaign came complete with masculinst dolls see Figure 4. Hazardman Dolls.

Figure 4. Hazardman Dolls.

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The campaign was complete with an animation series where the big safety ticket items were petty risk and saving women who were sexualized (https://vimeo.com/433435395). Ah for the Love of Zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/) behaviourism and policing PPE (https://issimo.s3.amazonaws.com/static/thirdpartyassets/annesummers/TheWomensManifesto_pdffinal.pdf ).

At no time was there ever a voice raised against Hazardman other than in the pages of the safetyrisk blog (https://safetyrisk.net/hazardman-disappears/ ).

Example Two – Safety Sofie.

When I was last in Europe I was shocked to see a safety consulting company on site called ‘Safety Sophie’. See Figure 5 Safety Sofie.

Figure 5. Safety Sofie.

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In Figure 6. Sex Sells, we see Sofie complete with sexy outfits, leaning over men and language with sexual double meanings playing sexy policing on naughty boys who don’t act safely.

Figure 6. Sex Sells

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Ah, if you are a safe boy Bill, I’ll give you a Safety Sofie kiss – Figure 7. Sofie Kiss

Figure 7. Sofie Kiss

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You can read about Safety Sofie here but of course no suggestion that the strategy is misogynist. Damned Whores and God’s Police indeed.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652616001967 Moreso, Safety seems to think that the message of selling safety as ‘sexy’ is a good thing. And this has been going on for ages:

https://www.safetysolutions.net.au/content/personal-protection-equipment/article/ohs-becomes-sexy-for-investors-977847301

Just search on Pinterest and see what comes up when you look for ‘Safety is Sexy’ (https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/323062973240750867/), hmmm – objectified women.

So, amidst the tirade of boring safety that loves petty risk, objects, checklists, counting, PPE and policing, it seems the remedy is to call it ‘sexy’ and put a woman-as-object in view. Dammed Whores and God’s Police indeed.

Example Three. Mums For Safety

So, currently running in the theme of God’s Police is the Mum’s for Safety campaign (https://houstongroup.com.au/projects/mums-for-safety/). Ah, where even the CEO of Lend Lease needs policing from his Mum for decision making. Ah, Dumbs for Safety (https://safetyrisk.net/dumbs-for-safety/), does anyone stop for just a second in this industry of objects and think for two seconds about the semiotics, symbolism and unconscious messaging of what it does??? Figure 8. Mum’s for Safety

Figure 8. Mum’s for Safety

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The campaign is still running here: https://www.lendlease.com/au/company/about-us/safety/mums-for-safety/ Of course Mum’s in Safety is all bubble wrapped in positivity and if you criticize it, you must be anti-safety, this is how misogyny works. Misogyny is always packaged up along with binary logic to create duty to the status quo. Don’t let it worry you that women are yet again given the policing role against the naughty boys.

Then when you accept the model, it even gets better (https://rokon.com.au/news/2019/10/rokon-takes-lend-leases-mums-for-safety-campaign-to-new-heights/). Hey I know, let’s have a blow up Mum doll on top of the site shed. Ah, Mum is looking over you, let’s project responsibility and policing safety on to her (https://www.9news.com.au/national/workplace-accidents-lendlease-construction-mothers-worry-safety-message/28ba31c3-86d5-49e3-9a7b-13bb63905cf4 )

On some good news, it’s great to see the iconic high heeled stiletto go from the Women in Safety identity (https://www.womeninsafety.net/), took a while. Then how disappointing to see it’s endorsement of zero. If there ever was a more misogynist symbol of control, objectivization, metricization and masculinst power it is zero. Zero is the symbol for bullying, policing and power. Ah, I’m only smashing you and sacking you for your own good but it’s ok, I’m doing it positively for safety!

The heart of Feminism is about much more than sex, gendered roles or sexism but rather a philosophy that values socialitie, cultural meaning and the politics/ethics of risk. You will of course find no discussion of these in safety or in the AIHS BoK.

Unfortunately, one cannot separate the advancement of women in safety without also tackling the deeply toxic focus of an industry that dehumanizes and objectifies humans, especially women. And staying inside the camp, doesn’t change the camp, the camp changes you. Such is the politics of conformity. Do a study of visionaries some time you never find them inside the camp.

And so it seems Safety is quite happy to promote women just as long as its hegemony of duty is not broken. The rules are quite simple:

  1. Don’t question, criticise or interrogate safety – positivity is god
  2. Deconstruction is wrong, negativity is bad – leave Lend Lease alone
  3. Don’t attack founding assumptions of the industry and comply
  4. Accept the defining roles of safety: control, policing, PPE, counting and power.
  5. Keep out of the territory of philosophy, let men do that
  6. Suck up the behaviourist ideology and keep on policing
  7. Accept masculinst symbology and roles
  8. Don’t read feminist history especially, post-structuralist critique
  9. Accept power-centric models of management
  10. Demonise critical/cultural thinking

And for godsake, don’t read Jane Caro (https://futurewomen.com/culture-2/books/jane-caro-is-an-accidental-feminist/ ), Clementine Ford (https://www.theguardian.com/world/australia-books-blog/2016/sep/28/clementine-ford-theres-something-really-toxic-with-the-way-men-bond-in-australia ) or Kate Manne (https://www.vox.com/conversations/2018/6/6/17409144/jordan-peterson-12-rules-for-life-feminism-philosophy)

Whilst, the three examples in this blog of misogyny are quite obvious and pronounced it is actually the more subtle and unconscious things in safety that are the most destructive. This is how behaviourist, binary and power-centric ideologies pervade the safety space masked by an ethic of duty. Of course duty is the deontological theme for the AIHS BoK Chapter on non-Ethics, what a perfect framework for oppression.

Whilst I understand why women have created their own association in safety it can also be a way of disempowering and marginalizing women to emphasize how non-mainstream women are and force acceptance of masculinst ideology (zero) to remain accepted in the camp.

There’s no better way of keeping critical thinking quashed than duty, obedience and positivity. All wonderful dynamics of the misogynist story. There is no better way at maintaining misogyny than keeping the safety status quo. Any critical thinking must be sidelined and demonsised so that the non-vision of zero is maintained as the mantra and made the vision for an industry with no vision. This is your duty.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

14 Replies to “Safety as a Mysoginist Activity”

  1. That was an excellent article! Thanks Rob. Spot on with the “rules” When I question, or make suggestions that don’t fit the accepted narrative, the responses I get are disappointing though not at all surprising. It is a continual source of amusement for me.

    1. Thanks Jackie, I think its a shame that a male has to put something up like this, there is still no Feminist voice in the sector. Says a great deal about the power of duty, the alienation of critical thinking and compliance in the sector.

  2. Hi Rob,

    I’m not entirely convinced by the point that safety is misogynist when using the preferred definition at the start i.e. “it’s about controlling and punishing women who challenge male ideology”.

    From my experience gender doesn’t factor at all. Its all about a “select group” who control a narrative and punishes everyone who challenges their (safety) thinking regardless of ethnicity, gender etc. Anyone who challenges the narrative is equally punished.and squashed “by the system”. How many stories have heard from disillusions males who question zero harm?

    Also those 10 points you list I see as evidence for a closed mind and manipulative personality – i don’t equate them with maleness. In what ways do you see them as equivalent to a male ideology?

    In this sense I fear bringing gender into does not fit lived experience, and is a distraction from the real problem.

    1. Do you think that all women in safety are allowed to be exactly who they are and focus on their inherent feminine traits like care and nurturing or are they forced into male safety brutalism to survive?

      1. Admin, there are several aspects to your question that are at issue in the debate. The first is that women are not allowed to contest the patriarchy of safety, under the myths of positivity and compliance they either fall in line or quietly recede to the background.
        The second is about the idea of ‘inherent feminine traits’. This is not really what feminism is about but rather about social justice, equity, tolerance and the acceptance of critical voice. Even the projection of care and nurturing to women plays into the ideology, men can be both too. The stereotyping of ‘Whores and God’s Police is part of that stereotyping and is well demonstrated in History and in the way Lend Lease is so easily able to play on that stereo typing so that everyone accepts it as normal. I am staggered women are not up in arms about this portrayal of what it is to be a mother, the definition of family and the portrayal of bad safety by naughty boys! From Women in Safety? crickets. Comply, duty, obey and focus on PPE.

    2. James, the points you make are quite valid.
      However, Feminism, Poststructuralism and Social Psychology etc are not intended to be about being female and male but rather about the power structures embedded in orthodoxy historically that have been gendered as His-story.
      The Feminist perspective like the Black Live Matter movement and #metoo movement simply wants a voice that tells a different story to the duty, comply and submit narrative which predominantly empowers rich white males.
      The ‘All Lives Matter’ movement is also the same strategy used by orthodoxy to demonize the marginalised. The facts of the matter is that vulnerable and marginalised groups remain to be without a voice to the select group that control the narrative: obey, comply, duty and objects.
      I have received numerous private emails since the blog from women eg. and I quote: ‘it will take some time before a female can post something like this and not be seen as emotional, having a hissy fit or getting her knickers in a knot – unfortunately’.
      So, I think Summers point in 1975 remains true, that women are still portrayed as either whores or god’s police by the male dominated media and male dominated safety industry. There are many more examples than the 3 provided in the blog.
      Even the nature of the way Women in Safety are tolerated is interesting because they are certainly not a Feminist group, but just imagine if they criticized zero! or any of the other patriarchal structures that objectify people in safety? How Women in Safety remain silent about the Lend Lease campaign is a classic example of duty, silence, backgrounding and is of course offensive to men too. There is no ethic in risk in the sector and the AIHS BoK Chapter simply endorses a masculinist ethic. as for Lend Lease – Poor little naughty boys need mummy to be safe. Women are used as the medium for the message and still no criticism from the sector by women.
      The fact that Women in Safety need to form a separate association says much about the nature of safety itself as a masculinst narrative. and this is not about maleness or femininity but rather how power is used against others, in this case women.
      Yes, there are similarities in the list of 10 that affect men but the dynamic is not the same and neither is the power imbalance.
      In my lived experience in safety this all rings true.

      1. Hi Rob,

        You still appear to be using straw-man type stereotypes e.g. by saying that The ‘All Lives Matter’ movement is also the same strategy used by orthodoxy to demonize the marginalized.

        I’m not a rich, powerful elite and yet i firmly hold to the belief that all lives matter for a number o]f reasons. The main reason being that if i prefer one group to another then i’m being racist and or sexist – all people have equal value to me regardless of sex, class, ethnicity intellect etc and i refuse to prefer one group above another.

        The black lives matter movement appear to be very selective in their thinking in that not all black lives appear to matter to them – only certain lives. Look at the thousands of black businesses and property that have been destroyed by the marches, what about the black lives killed via abortion, what about the black victims of those marches?

        On another note – There is also a way to make a point but looting, burning, killing, vandalizing is something i do not want to have any association with.

        At the end of the day I have good friends and people i respect from many ethnicitys and will not consider one friend or ethnicity to be more valuable than another; all are equally important to me.

        Speaking for myself who believe that all lives matter, i resent the implication that i want to demonize anyone. In fact your claim is ironic in that it appears to demonize both me and my belief that all lives matter.

  3. Hi Admin,

    Are people allowed to be who they are regardless of gender? Don’t males need to keep quite too to “fit in”?

    Why the stereotypes? Is brutalism a male trait? Isn’t caring a human trait?

    Why put people into stereotypes – isn’t stereotypical thinking part of the traditional safety rationale?

    1. The Poststructuralist, Feminist and Social Psychology view is not about traits at all but about power and how power is used politically and ideologically on marginalised people as dehumanised objects. It is also about those who suffer most under the duty, obey, compliance ethic and who that ethic serves most.
      It is difficult to avoid stereotypes in this debate but it is not intended to be about stereotyping but rather about social justice, voice and the allowance for ‘differance’.

    2. That’s my point – yes I was stereotyping and generalising. I feel I spent most of my career agreeing, complying and behaving as expected and watched those I was supposed to be controlling do the same, regardless of gender. Can’t be a good thing for anyone. Not just a safety thing – I’ve seen close friends and relatives become politicians or real estate agents with the belief they could do good and behave ethically – they soon discovered that survival depended being just like the archetype

      1. Hard to avoid the stereotype/archetype handle, type is a useful way of highlighting ideology/worldviews/philosophy. As for gender, I read plenty of Feminist Historians and they feel the injustice much more acutely than men in mainstream history just as Pascoe’s Dark Emu draws attention to the alienation of the Indigenous story from Australian History.
        The pressure and power of orthodoxies rests on the duty, compliance and silence. However, when we look for visionaries, you never find them in the camp.

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